The first thing that has to be mentioned with this game is the bugs and glitches. This is the buggiest game I’ve ever played; many other games have glitches, but they’re usually not as obvious and potentially game breaking as the ones in this game. I mentioned many of them throughout the review, but here are the worst of the ones that I personally encountered:
- On the map, you can’t use any spells but the main character’s (this is a sure thing, not something that randomly glitches out or activates)
- In the latter third of the game, the defense stats of three characters can flip to 0 for no reason.
- Sometimes when you switch floors in a dungeon, you end up in a black area where you can’t move.
- Sometimes the text boxes will glitch so that you can’t read anyone’s status or any of the command/interface menus, until you enter or exit a dungeon or town.
Story/Characters: The characters are a diverse lot; your main character is a college student, but you will recruit a worldwide adventurer, an alien hero, a girl who used to be a boy, and others. They all have past lives which explain their ability to cast spells. Each one has a little bit of development and side story exclusive to them — not especially detailed, but equal to other games of this era.
The story is bizarre. The creators were clearly going for a gag story feel, with a lot of random plot events and sudden happenings. For a game made in 1993, the story is average overall. I didn’t find the jokes very funny, and in the end it is a normal “save the world” plot. I did like that the past lives were actually an element in the story and not just a joke used to explain their spellcasting.
The villains and monsters are unusual and distinctive; they’re not developed all that well but many of them you wouldn’t see in any other game, such as an old man singing karaoke, a nose with hands and feet, or a fish named “Mambo No. 5” that has the song as its special BGM (in Japanese, a “mambo” is a type of fish).
World: The game takes place in an unspecified world that combines modern and medieval type stuff; since they’re going for jokes and gags there’s not much consistency or development of the overall world. Some of the towns have some character or interest but other than that it’s standard.
Game Flow: This is fine overall. There are a few choke points where the difficulty suddenly ramps up, but it’s not too bad. I did feel like the random encounters were often too difficult. You have monsters that can cast spells on your whole party or 2 members that do about 1/3 of their HP; when you encounter a group of 3 or 4 of them it can be hard to survive. Running is usually effective, though.
Map a speedup key to a button on your controller though. When you enter battle or a new area, there’s load time. Yes, on a cartridge. I suppose this could be intentional delay but I don’t think it is. (Also the walking speed is very slow as usual.)
System: The battle system is a side-view turn based system. Mostly you will be attacking or using one of your “transform moves”. These are both spells and techniques. I found that generally my characters had enough MP that I could use these on tough grunt enemies, and every character is fairly effective in both attacking and using spells/techs. Ul Ul Boy’s barrier techniques are ridiculously powerful but other than that you can swap characters freely without fear that they won’t be effective (unless they get hit by the 0 defense bug).
Outside of battle there’s nothing unusual. Dungeons are typical RPG fare, with few puzzles. The towns just have the usual assortment of shops and people who give clues. I didn’t find any minigames.
Side Quests/Optional Content: Near the end of the game, there is a part where things open up a bit — you have one thing you have to do, but you can explore around and find a number of optional events. This isn’t especially common in FC and early SFC games so it’s a nice touch.
Interface: The interface is bad, but similar to other games of this era. There’s no universal command button so you have to select “talk” or “search” from a menu every time. Inventories are individual, with 9 slots including equipment, so the normal annoyances apply there. You can’t see the strength of weapons or armor until you try to equip them (or take it to an analysis shop). There’s no way to know what the spells, items, or accessories do from the choice menus.
Graphics/Sound: The graphics are the one place where I think they did a pretty good job for this time period (not counting the glitches). The battle sprites are large, colorful, and detailed. They have attack animations and “hurt” animation for both enemies and allies, and the animations reflect the weapon you have equipped. When you cast a spell, the past life appears and has a special animation. The graphics outside of battle aren’t quite as good but they’re OK. The walking animation of the sprites on the town/dungeon map is not very smooth.
The grunt enemies are the same way, and the game makes very little use of palette swapped enemies, so there’s a lot of variety.
The music isn’t all that great, and it doesn’t sound very good — the samples they used to play the music are poor quality and so even songs that might be good sound annoying.
I don’t really recommend this game at all; it might seem like there could be a “so bad it’s good” quality but instead it’s just annoying to play. Unfortunately the next 4 games up on my list are regarded as crappy games, so this may be a slog until I reach Dragon Quest V.